Backflip Budget Day

So you may recall I made a dramatic statement that I would commence celebrating No Funds February, commencing tomorrow, involving a strict list of allowable expenditure and strong statements of perfection.

Well, that’s hilarious, because I’m no longer doing it. Sorry.

But with very good reason! Today was the first date of the 12 months of dating gift I wonderfully compiled for the boyfriend, and this romantic date was titled ‘Basketball and Budgets’. We went to the basketball on Friday night (delightful). Then we budgeted today (less delightful).

It was definitely one of the most productive dates I’ve ever been on. We sat on the couch. We opened the budget excel spreadsheet template that’s freely available from ASIC. I got out some coloured pens and a cute notebook.

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I love an unnecessary flat-lay!

And we got into some real talk. It was confronting. But it was extremely empowering, and I encourage everyone, if you haven’t already, to chat money with your partner. Even if you aren’t slowly migrating to wholly combined incomes, talking about your expenditure, your bad spending habits and your goals is a really great way to reset your financial program for the year. It’s also a really great opportunity to get honest with yourself. For example, I have saved a microscopic percentage of my annual income for the past two years. I realised that without having carefully tracked everything I spend, I had absolutely no idea where those tens of thousands of dollars have gone (although my gut feel is rent, pretty stationery, activewear and foreign transaction fees). There was no way I could reach the goals I wanted to if I wasn’t going to actually put in the time and effort to setting the budget and tracking how I comply with it.

It took us the better part of 4 hours to set up the system, but we followed it through to the end, and February has morphed from ‘Fund Free February’ to ‘Budget Backflip’: the month where I prove to myself I can stick to a tight budget. And please, find below, the handy guide to how to successfully complete a budget date with your partner and not kill each other.

How to successfully complete a budget date with your partner and not kill each other

  1. Clear off your schedule for the day (or at least 3 or 4 hours). These conversations take some serious time, and you don’t want any extra stressors outside of the inherent stress of money-talk.
  2. Talk about your big picture goals. Do you want to buy a house? Do you want to have a wedding? Do you want to invest? Do you want to have $1000 in your savings account? Every single goal you have is valid and legitimate, and talk about them without judgment or shame.
  3. Set up a budget template. There are millions of templates on the internet, you just need to find one that suits you. I recommend the ASIC one I linked to above, because it gives really comprehensive categories and automates all the pies and statistics for you. But really all you need is something that gives you somewhere to input how much you earn, and how much you spend in different categories.
  4. Populate the categories. Be honest with yourself here. Do you spend $300 a week on boozey weekends and dinners? Put that in the alcohol/bars/restaurants columns. Do you find yourself spending $100/month on gifts? Put it down. The first population of categories should be what you really tend to spend.
  5. Look at the numbers. Do you tend to spend more than your income, without saving? You need to tweak your categories. Consider what spending you can reduce so that the numbers work for you and your goals.
  6. Save your budget, and print it out. Put it up somewhere where you can see it.
  7. This is my key step: automate your transactions as much as possible. Make sure your money is going to appropriate buckets. Are you saving $50/week? Automatically debit it weekly to the savings account. Same goes with any loan repayments.
  8. Now you’ve caught up with me! Spend month one tracking all of your spending. At the end of month, we’ll be checking in to see how we’ve conformed and whether our numbers are right. Then, if need be, we’ll do some further tweaking – preferably in the direction of more saving, less spending (at least, that’s my plan). I’ve been using the Mindful Budgeting system, but the back of an envelope works. Or your notes app. Literally anywhere you remember to write something down.

Let me know how you go? I love a good money chat.

E x

Valentines Day Inspo

Hear ye, hear ye – let all know that there is merely TWO WEEKS until Valentines Day.

Sometimes I feel like I defy a lot of the ‘strong woman’ ideals that I wish to emulate when I admit that I LOVE Valentines Day. I always wanted a boyfriend who would do cute surprises for me, like send flowers to my work just because, or take me on a surprise date of dinner and something cutesy fun, like bowling or browsing a new bookshop that he found. The boyf, as great as he is, certainly does not do those things. So it’s nice to have a day dedicated to the event as a gentle reminder (in amongst some of the much less gentle reminders I give throughout the year), that I do in fact like being treated like a spoiled princess. It’s just who I am.

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That aside, I bring to you 6 Valentines Day Dates and 6 Valentines Day Gifts that your significant other – be that boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, best friend or dog – will love.

DATES

  1. Picnic.

    It’s traditional, but IT WORKS. You know the number one ingredient to an excellent, and well-received, date? Effort. Put together your SO’s favourite foods. Pick their favourite wine or champagne. Or spirit. Picnics with shots are good too. Make a playlist of songs for the occasion. Wear a nice outfit. Stake out a solid location beforehand. Pack sunscreen or mozzie-spray if need be. Bring along a lantern with an electric light inside for when the sun starts to go down.

“But Emily”, you say, “what if it rains?” Picnic on your living room floor. Put up some fairy lights around the place. Use real glass and cutlery instead of the plastic stuff you would have packed for the outdoor picnic.

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This legend even thought of Nutella!

2. Re-enactment date

Do exactly what you did on your first date, down to any awkward moments involving spilling red wine on yourself or accidentally thoroughly insulting their religion. I’m big in to nostalgia, and it is a nice reminder of how invested you are in the relationship.

3. Turn up unexpectedly with chocolate and flowers

Leverage the benefits of a surprise, and turn up somewhere, where you’re least expected, with chocolate and flowers. Bonus points: add in a copy of The Notebook to watch together. Or some other movie I guess, if you can even think of an alternative.

4. Make wishes

Super cheesy, super adorable. The best kind of date. Get yourself a big handful of 5cent pieces (or pennies, if you are from countries that still have them), locate a fountain in advance, then go there together and make wishes on the coins. Bonus points: Date-themed gift of a journal and a framed photo of the two of you with a star motif (get it? Wish upon a star? You are so welcome).

5. Do a cocktail-making class

Not as committed as a wine tour (and anyway, wine tours now remind me of drunk uni days, not a romantic escape), but still involving a healthy dose of alcohol to smooth over any awkward moments if this is an early-ish relationship, this would fall into the more expensive, but more exciting category of dates. I’d look on RedBalloon or keep an eye on Scoopon, but tonnes of bars offer these kind of classes now, and it gives you a chance to develop a fun couple signature cocktail to drink together and make at home. Bonus points: Date-themed gift of a set of martini glasses and a cocktail shaker.

6. Karaoke

It’s line-ball whether the Japanese deserve more praise for changing the world as we know it by introducing sushi or karaoke. Drink some, spend the afternoon learning the lyrics to karaoke favourites like Ice Ice Baby and anything by the Backstreet Boys, then have a tipsy time together showing off and fighting over who gets the lead in the next duet. Karaoke can now easily be done at home, but spare a thought for whether you want to maintain your relationship with your neighbours and maybe go to a karaoke bar.

GIFTS

  1. For a gift that keeps on giving: Subscriptions.

These are the BEST, because you get a present one day, and then you keep getting presents every time a new month rolls around. And the days of only subscribing to National Geographic are GONE my friend, and to be honest, none too soon. Great make-up subscriptions include Bellabox (pleeeeaassee can someone get me this) and Lust Have It (excellent full size bonus samples are sent out regularly). If the giftee loves stationery, check out Happy Mail or Pipsticks. If you’re buying for a boyfie, try the Dollar Shave Club or Gentleman’s Box. Foodies? Easy, subscribe to Little Box of Yum. Fan of reading? Try an Audible subscription, which has an awesome collection of audiobooks. Don’t forget your pup, get them the Top Dog Box ❤.

2. For the sweet-tooth: Homemade cookies.

Be adorable and bake their favourite cookies from scratch. Extra bonus: make them in the shape of hearts (use a cookie cutter from Ikea or KMart). Extra extra bonus: write cheesy slogans like ‘Be Mine’ and ‘My Valentine’ on them. Package the cookies up in a nice box, and stick a picture of the two of you on the lid.

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3. For the insta-lover: A fuji instax camera.

This would pair especially well with certain kinds of dates, like exploring the city or going for a hike, where you can test the camera out. This definitely isn’t the cheapest gift, as cameras seem to go for between $80 – $100, and the film is an annoying recurring cost. However, these cameras are sooo much fun. It feels extra quaint to be able to hold the photo in your hand and watch the colours develop. And if you take the time to learn to use it properly, most photos turn out great. Added bonus: less likely to spend time as an #instagramhusband or #instagram wife, since you get one shot, and one shot only.

4. For the stationery lovers: Fountain pen and Leuchtturm notebook.

I’m a huge fan of giving good quality pens; every one has an occasion in their life when they need one, and it makes for a really special gift. Lamy is a great option for an affordable and fun, but nice, pen. And Leuchtturm makes absolutely beautiful notebooks in various sizes and page layouts. I tend to buy from LarryPost, which has excellent prices (although I note I haven’t had an awesome experience with their customer service), but T Sharp & Co (on the long shot if you’re in Perth), or Myer also stock both. Pro-tip: include spare ink.

5. For the stressheads: Zen pack.

Is your SO stressed out of their freakin’ mind? Put together a zen pack. Suggested items include an adults colouring in book and set of nice pencils or textas, a face-mask product, a fluffy robe, box of soft tissues, herbal tea, gratitude journal, a subscription to Headspace (the meditation app), a voucher for a massage (better, schedule one for that day) and a block of their favourite chocolate. The more personalised to their special brand of stress insanity, the better. (Not going to lie – this is my personal favourite gift).

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Good luck! If you have any other ideas, or if any of these are an absolute roaring success, let me know in the comments.

E xx

 

 

 

Zero Funds February

I’m confident I’m not alone in thinking where the heck did January go?? I’ll be doing a January recap at the end of the month, but – it was an amazing month. It also had the added benefit of involving very little ‘thinking about the future’, which means my real new year can begin in February.

February is just awfully convenient for setting mini goals. This particular February is greater than most, since it begins on a Monday and ends on a Sunday (excluding 29 February – am I the only one who thinks 29 February isn’t a real day?). After tossing up some different titles for this month’s goal, I settled on Zero Funds February (although ‘No Fun February’ was the lead contender, I thought it was a little on the Negative Nancy side). Zero Funds February involves the following:

Zero.

Spending.

Yep – you guys, I’m doing a one-month shopping ban. Except for pre-approved items, I will be spending zero dollars. This is functioning as a warm up for a future longer-term shopping ban. For now, it gives me a hyper-focussed period of time to examine my habits and triggers, and make some informed decisions about how I want to work my money going forward.

My mantra to get me through is extremely unoriginal:

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And behold – the pre-approved February shopping list:

  • Groceries / petrol / bills (obviously) (note that ‘bills’ includes gym membership, 4 week challenge cost and Netflix).
  • Protein powder.
  • Printing photos (9c / 4×6 picture at Harvey Norman – this is part of my year long goal to Project Life my photos and importantly use up all the craft crap I hang on to).
  • Skin cancer check (these appointments are IMPOSSIBLE to get, and the only Saturday I could get is the last Saturday of the month).
  • Two trips to the 50m pool for swim practice ($6/each).
  • 2 x gifts: Valentines Day, nan’s birthday.
  • Stamps.

More importantly – things that I will not be spending on this month:

  • Take-away coffee.
  • Lunches.
  • Sweet tooth snacks.
  • Yarn (I like to crochet in my spare time #legend).
  • All other craft-related items.
  • Stationery (including to do lists, notebooks, journals, colourful pens, stickers…).
  • Candles.
  • Clothes (including all activewear).
  • Accessories.
  • Shoes.
  • Make up / Skin care / Hair care.
  • Apps.

Do you have a monthly goal for February? Any advice on the above? Let me know in the comments!

Steps to KonMari-ing the crap out of my bathroom

A year later and I am on board the KonMari train to tidying and magically transforming my life into a world of unicorns and rainbows dancing around all the newly freed up space in my home!

I got back to the land down under on Saturday and, after watching all the crap spill out of our suitcases, adding to the stuff already filling up our little home, I was itching to get discarding. I defied the KonMari laws and started with the bathroom, because I embarrassingly harbour very strong emotional connections to my clothes (I know, I’m insane), and wasn’t ready for that horrible process of saying goodbye.

With jet lag waking me at the delightful hour of 4.50am, I got up, got to work, and “discarded” (aka got rid of a tonne of sh*t). Below is a step-by-step guide to my first foray into performing magic upon my bathroom.

Step 1: Take a before photo or two ( obviously )

   

  

Room deets: combo bathroom/laundry. Contains 3 drawers, three cupboards under the sink, and one long cupboard with 6 shelves. Laundry sink is also full of random items. There is an additional box hiding in the bedroom containing nail polishes.

Step 2: Does it spark joy?

Every item got lovingly held, interrogated about its ability to bring me joy, and put either into the bin (see ya exploded lip gloss I never dealt with), the throwing away box or the keep box. This was quick, as a lot of the stuff was embarrassing (shimmery Ed Hardy body lotion? Seriously, why).

Step 3: Get tracking

I sat down with a clear coffee table, notebook and pen, and wrote down every item and tracked whether it went in the discard purgatory or the bring-me-joy-baby keep pile. (This step was motivated by Cait Flanders, and an intention to start a shopping ban).

(PS – want to see what 73 nailpolishes looks like? I know. I too am mortified with myself. When the heck was I thinking I could use up 73 polishes? The total square meterage of my finger nails is like 0.05.)

  
Step 4: Wet wipe the world

The adventures of my rank bathroom cupboards required a massive wipe down of every single item and all containers. Apparently my foundations like to randomly squirt out of the bottles and cause havoc when I’m at work. Surprisingly, that process served as a second-round cull, as it did not bring me a single speck of joy to look after some of that stuff and I never wanted to wipe down hundreds of items again.

Step 5: Order boyfriend to take out rubbish to avoiding risking the “temptation” of hanging on to any of the non-joy-giving-devil-items.

(Love you babe xoxo)

Step 6: Give everything a home

I really wanted to go to IKEA to buy the perfect storage, but I held strong to the Oracle (all praise Marie Kondo) and used what I had around the home, since the solution isn’t buying more storage, but having less stuff. I even put my iPhone 6 box to work, since the book had specifically recommended apple product boxes. I took this extremely seriously. 

Step 7: Get grumpy

This takes frickin forever. I got grumpy and had a nap.

Step 8: Resume finding shoe boxes in which to neatly stack your stuff after refreshing nap.

Step 9: Take after photos

  
* ta da *

  
And finally – my review of the process in point-form:

  • Discarding items is awesome and eye-opening. I had SO MUCH MORE junk that I even fathomed – see you later high horse of “I live in a small apartment and hardly have anything”.
  • Tracking your items is tedious but very rewarding. I made up a spreadsheet afterwards so that I can continue to track what comes in and out of my life, and share the total stats below.
  • Don’t ever subscribe to makeup subscription boxes. They increase your Total Crap Percentage (or TCP) by a factor of a zillion, and it’s extremely unlikely you’ll use any of it.
  • Clean or wipe down everything before putting it back – this step really made me appreciate what I had and inspired me to want to look after what I have better so I don’t have an urge for shiny new stuff all the time.
  • Shoeboxes as storage is awesomeeee.
  • Marie Kondo knows her stuff. While I didn’t thank all my items out loud for taking care of me at my worst and loving me at my best and whatever, I did generate a very deep appreciation for what I have, and mentally engaged in some serious gratitude (alongside a little self-berating of why-did-you-ever-even-think-it-was-a-good-idea-to buy-this-you-idiot questioning and avoiding mentally calculating the money I wasted).

So without further ado, the numbers:

Total items owned: 369

Items discarded: 155

Percentage discarded: 42%

See you for round 2 – Clothes, otherwise known as the Era of Activewear Confrontation.

My approach to exercise

It is impossible to escape exercise and fitness as one of the foundations of 21st century millenial life. Exercising more/losing weight/being fit is goal at the forefront of most people’s minds. The number of people participating in fun runs, half marathons, triathlons and other “fit”events has increased enormously.

I am not immune to this trend – in fact, I love exercise. This is very lucky, as I also love food, and all of the “you can’t out-train a bad diet” truths aside, at the very least I’m committed to moving my body, which usually results in a natural desire to fuel it properly.

Anyway – a sermon on exercise and health is not why I am here. Rather, I wanted to share what I spend on “exercise”. Prepare yourself. It’s kind of mortifying. 

To start, I’ll lay out what exercise I do. I found an amazing group training group last year as a result of a Christmas gift from my parents. It revolutionised my attitude to exercise, and was the first form of fitness I actually stuck with, consistently, for an entire year. I saw changes I never thought possible, and I refuse to give up on that group now, after everything it has given me. 

I also recently joined a country-club style gym with my boyf. It is a 6 minute walk from our apartment, and has a huge gym, an indoor and outdoor pool (unfortunately not full sized, but we can live with that), tennis courts, squash courts, and, hilariously, a bar (in fact – two bars). 

The group training costs me $35.88 a week.

The gym costs me $34.50 a week.

So yes – I spend $70.38 a week on “exercise”. That’s approximately 7% of my weekly take-home pay. I note, for completeness and a better insight to my confessional, that my work provides me access to a free gym. 

 This total also does not include expenditure on the following, which I label “exercise incidentals”:

  • Activewear (maybe my most tragic weakness?)
  • Appropriate footwear
  • Triathlon entry fees (my next half ironman was a breathtaking $400, just to enter)
  • Fuel/nutrition (gels, protein powder, bars etc.)
  • Gear (tennis and squash racquets, tennis balls, gym bag, water bottles, sunnies, bike services, and so on)
  • Washing the never ending pile of sweaty outfits 
  • Pool entry for when I want to swim 50m laps (about $6/entry)
  • Game fees for netball (I won’t be playing this any longer, but last year it was $10/game)

You get where I’m going. I am a sucker for exercise, and affiliated activities. One of the motivations to track my expenses this year is to get an actual figure on what I spend on exercise. I’m convinced it’s a very high number. However, the only thing I could definitively tell you is what I spend a week on entry fees places – the rest disappear into cute amounts I can’t place, and can’t put an exact figure on at this stage.

I do note I labelled this category as “exercise” and not just plain old Exercise. That’s because to a large degree, this category is also Entertainment. Despite not being in a fantastic economic position, signing up to our country club was one of the best things the boyf and I have done for our relationship. The aforementioned shoebox apartment gives rise to strong feelings of claustrophobia sometimes, particularly when you live on top of each other. I always wanted to live somewhere with a pool and gym, but those options were significantly more expensive and more poorly located than our current place. We worked out we could stay at our place, and join the gym, and come out ahead by about $50 – $80 a week, and have access to better facilities than if we’d upgraded our place. 

We also found that this option gave us somewhere to go to get out of each other’s hair when things got a bit too much after long days or just general life stress. Even better, going together has given us a really healthy dimension to our relationship – we have fun conversations while playing squash that aren’t complaining about our day, and when we swim on the rooftop, overlooking the sparkle of the city while the sun sets, we feel grateful for each other and for the little things in the day. 

So at face value – I spend way too much on exercise. But I believe in investing in my health, and in my relationship, and the current set up achieves both of those outcomes. I definitely agree it can be done cheaper – there are thousands of work outs available free online, via apps or Pinterest or ebooks or Instagram – but unless you stick to them, they are useless, simply mental clutter. This category, for me, defines the “personal” of personal finance. I’m excited to share more about it as I transition into the second half of my twenties (nooooooooo!!!) and as I undertake a focussed approach to my finances in 2016.

While sitting in the Trinidad airport (as is my wont these days… But only until Saturday!), I stumbled across some articles in Google, and found out that even IKEA thinks we’ve reached peak consumption? Well, if the company that, to me, is the true definition of consumerism, has openly admitted we’ve just got too much stuff, then I suppose this de-clutter/simplify/minimalism movement really has some weight behind it.

Homewares hasn’t really been a huge issue for me. We moved into a shoebox apartment, and were given most of our furniture courtesy of generous family and forward-thinking parents. That combination of lack of space and already having everything meant that there was no need to go shopping for all those delightful items to fill our home, since our home was very rapidly filled. Still, I am sure with the gradual inheritance of more space as we potentially move in the future (we’re committed to our cosy one bedroom for another year at this stage), will come the desire for more to “fill it up”. I’ll have to keep this concept of Ikea’s in mind – that we, as the human race, have peaked. It’s time to chill out on the buying and perfecting. 

I’ll be re-reading the KonMari book on my final (14 hour) flight home, and look forward to sharing the progress I make on our home (which is relatively low on homewares but still, likely to contain far more than I realise!).

[De-Clutter] Trying my hand while on vacation 

So as I mentioned, I read The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying up, and I’ve really got the itch to give the method a go. But in true first world problem style, I am on a month-long vacation and can’t possibly de-clutter (although my boyfriend would disagree, since I am known to be a chronic over-packer, but on the other hand, he’s now acquired two tennis racquets to bring home to Australia. Things are equal). 

But the itch still needed scratching and I decided to apply the “does it bring you joy?” test to my Instagram account at 3 in the morning, when another bout of insomnia had me staring at the ceiling. I’m a passionate consumer of social media, and, tragically, reality television shows (amongst other things such as cute clothes). I follow a lot of irrelevant people  and stores who I don’t know on Instagram, and from the book, realised that bloated number of followed accounts and feed full of crap was most definitely not bringing me joy. 

I had done a similar cull in November, after I spend $180 on clothes from an online store who only advertised on Instagram. I was pretty mortified at myself, and immediately went about an extreme cull of brands that caused me to feel inferior and as though I needed to purchase more and better to be happy. 

But letting go in this way can be such a process. Last night I culled every Bachelor and Bachelorette Australia account (it seems like the former “contestants” just go on to a career of mediocrity, unsubtlely advertising miscellaneous irrelevant brands on their Instagram after the show ends), all brands, every celebrity (save for Kayla Itsines, whose #fitspo life I truly can’t get enough of and, pardon my wilful state of gullible-ness, seems not to advertise anything but her own workout app regime anyway) and any other person who I actually didn’t feel “joy” at seeing their account.

The celebrities (real and faux) weren’t too hard since honestly, who cares. I found it trickier to click the unfollow button on people from high school who I wasn’t even that close to back then, or others who at one stage I did care about but truly have nothing in common with any more. I really felt the battle between my instinct, which was surprisingly ruthless, and my brain saying “what’s the harm, sometimes it’s nice to check in and anyway it’s just Instagram, it’s not like you’re clearing out your closet?”

Across the total last two culls, my estimate is I unfollowed 80 accounts which I deemed as not bringing me joy. This was a timely reminder to me to try keep track of some numbers, although I suppose it doesn’t really matter. I undoubtedly feel lighter, calmer and happier when I scroll through my Instagram account (which I do far too often, but that’s another issue). I’m definitely looking forward to applying the method to my apartment when I get home. 

[Podcast Review]: ‘When Willpower Isn’t Enough’

Like most of the universe, I became hooked on podcasts because of the Serial story. I have a great desire to generally learn more, but I don’t engage well with “non-fiction” book reading. However, reading blogs and listening to engaging podcasts has accidentally resulted in imbuing some more knowledge, and I’d like to keep that up. TED talks are definitely something I’d like to engage with more, but I have had a tonne of finance and behavioural economics podcast subscriptions gathering dust on my phone that I’m finally uncovering and listening to. One that really resonated with me was an episode of Freakonomics titled ‘When Willpower Isn’t Enough’. 

The episode basically involved interviewing a behavioural economist on her work into temptation bundling and the fresh start effect. “Temptation bundling” is where you restrict the time when you can do something you love, such as watching an episode of a favourite TV show, only when doing a particular activity or after you’ve done an activity you struggle to make yourself do, such as going to the gym. The “fresh start effect” is that boost in motivation or willpower upon a perceived restart of a cycle, such as the new year, or a birthday, or even the start of a month or week. 

What I took away from the episode is that temptation bundling and the fresh start effect are devices available to people to self-harness and form the basis for the creation of new habits that result in achieving personal goals, such as losing weight. I found the concepts pleasant and interesting, and generally easily applicable to my own life. However, the nature of the devices makes me wonder how they’d apply to more complicated or emotive changes than simply going to the gym more (so you can find out what happens next on your show). I feel as though my position is that these concepts are a bit of a stop-gap for those”nice to have” type of activities, such as gym-going or maybe writing consistently (possible temptation bundle: only purchase a coffee when you sit down to write for a half an hour?). That is, when you think”I’d like to do that thing”, but often find you just do something else, you can combine them. But say you’ve been told you’re pre-diabetic, or your debt is so massive that you absolutely must pay it down or face bankruptcy, then these pleasant devices are most likely insufficient? I also don’t think that your trigger has to be quite as drastic as the ones I listed above, but if it’s something you intrinsically believe you should do, there perhaps isn’t a place for the devices.

Then again, I’m on a constant mission to find a balance between guiltlessly enjoying myself and choosing to hustle in the right areas. These devices definitely play an important role in mixing and matching activities that fall under those two categories. 

Overall, I really enjoyed the podcast, and as you can see, it has definitely made me think. I am definitely not immune to the fresh start effect (coming back on board to this blog at the start of 2016!) and definitely am employing it with my finances on this vacation, where each day is a fresh reminder to “start fresh” with making the choices that will get me where I want to be. 

[De-Clutter] Trying my hand while on vacation 

So as I mentioned, I read The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying up, and I’ve really got the itch to give the method a go. But in true first world problem style, I am on a month-long vacation and can’t possibly de-clutter (although my boyfriend would disagree, since I am known to be a chronic over-packer, but on the other hand, he’s now acquired two tennis racquets to bring home to Australia. Things are equal). 

But the itch still needed scratching and I decided to apply the “does it bring you joy?” test to my Instagram account at 3 in the morning, when another bout of insomnia had me staring at the ceiling. I’m a passionate consumer of social media, and, tragically, reality television shows (amongst other things such as cute clothes). I follow a lot of irrelevant people  and stores who I don’t know on Instagram, and from the book, realised that bloated number of followed accounts and feed full of crap was most definitely not bringing me joy. 

I had done a similar cull in November, after I spend $180 on clothes from an online store who only advertised on Instagram. I was pretty mortified at myself, and immediately went about an extreme cull of brands that caused me to feel inferior and as though I needed to purchase more and better to be happy. 

But letting go in this way can be such a process. Last night I culled every Bachelor and Bachelorette Australia account (it seems like the former “contestants” just go on to a career of mediocrity, unsubtlely advertising miscellaneous irrelevant brands on their Instagram after the show ends), all brands, every celebrity (save for Kayla Itsines, whose #fitspo life I truly can’t get enough of and, pardon my wilful state of gullible-ness, seems not to advertise anything but her own workout app regime anyway) and any other person who I actually didn’t feel “joy” at seeing their account.

The celebrities (real and faux) weren’t too hard since honestly, who cares. I found it trickier to click the unfollow button on people from high school who I wasn’t even that close to back then, or others who at one stage I did care about but truly have nothing in common with any more. I really felt the battle between my instinct, which was surprisingly ruthless, and my brain saying “what’s the harm, sometimes it’s nice to check in and anyway it’s just Instagram, it’s not like you’re clearing out your closet?”

Across the total last two culls, my estimate is I unfollowed 80 accounts which I deemed as not bringing me joy. This was a timely reminder to me to try keep track of some numbers, although I suppose it doesn’t really matter. I undoubtedly feel lighter, calmer and happier when I scroll through my Instagram account (which I do far too often, but that’s another issue). I’m definitely looking forward to applying the method to my apartment when I get home. 

[Check in] Week one

Although I’m busy holiday-ing through the grand opening of 2016, I wanted to check in on the progress of some of my 2016 goals. I note that I do lack a weekly financial check in at the moment because I would like to just be present on my vacation. 

Spanish

I want to stick with a language, so my goal is to do one duolingo Spanish lesson a day every day for 2016. I’m coming in cold to Spanish since it’s more common to study French or an Asian language in Perth. I’m really enjoying it though! Soy uno pinguino!

Current streak: 8 days

Fitness

Last year I did my first Ironman 70.3. It was exhilarating and amazing and I immediately signed up for my second (only two run in Western Australia each year). This one is on 2 May, and I’d like to take a half hour off my time and finish in under 7 hours. 

Training: well… I’m vacationing. I did a brief stint at the gym. I’m taking it easy on myself right now since there will be a gruelling 3 month training period coming up.

Finances

I paid off a very big credit card bill, what will be my last uncontrolled credit card spend for 2016. While I’ve racked up some dollars already pre-new year, there’ll be no more $1500 blow outs for me. As part of my Christmas gift to C, I scheduled in a budget date night for our return home (he loves budgets). I’ll share the results of that date at the end of January.

Memories

I want to take a photo every day of this year to scrapbook. I love creating and storing memories. This has been exceptionally easy since I’m holidaying an exciting new place every day. But, so I can feel smug, current streak: 8

And that’s all for now! I’ll leave you with a picture of the horrible time I’m having: